For too many companies, engagement surveys or climate surveys are a pretty meaningless annual routine that’s all about collecting metrics and going through the motions.  Employees don’t believe in them and neither do managers – paradoxically, it’s all pretty disengaging!

In our view, there’s a great opportunity to reposition the purpose of the program as not just information collecting and metrics (like a survey), but rather a tool where the most important objective is to spark a whole-of-business conversation in the company about a topic of shared importance.

We call these ‘Conversations of Shared Purpose’.

That means who scores what is not very important compared to the outcome that managers and their teams are having a constructive and honest 1:1 conversation about a topic that is important to everyone, not just leadership.

We’ve heard feedback from clients (who are running a conversation of shared purpose on whether they are living their values) that:

they are very pleased with the conversations this process is generating and are looking forward to Wave 2.  I like the traction in this group of companies! Takes a while but it feels authentic and powerful”.

A MirrorWave Conversation of Shared Purpose usually has the following features:

  • More than annual pulsing – usually 2 or 3 times per year – which means you can find a rhythm that’s appropriate to the conversation you want to spark
  • MirrorWave’s unique ‘following’ method, which means you know how an individual’s attitude to the conversation topic is changing over time
  • Emphasis on sparking constructive conversations and building alignment and focus, rather than the metrics.  This requires managers to have 1:1 informal conversations about the topic with their team members as part of their day-to-day routines.  Our Close the Loop system makes this simple and easy – and it does not add much work for managers.  Many have described the discussions they have had as one of the most transformational things they have done.  And employees feel listened to and are given an opportunity to show their engagement, creating a positive climate – all the same outcomes sought by surveys, but rarely achieved by them
  • These conversations will require some promises for action, which need to be seen through and with some good comms to support this
  • With two or more pulses under their belt, the program team can then see which individuals have become more positive, which have stayed the same and which are more negative.  That gives managers something tangible to work on, but also shows what is working and what is not.

To run a Conversation of Shared Purpose, the program needs to be attributed, otherwise you can’t follow individuals and have 1:1 conversations about what they said.  Our programs have really good response rates, strong ongoing participation, and full and honest comments.

So, when it comes to the issue of anonymity or attribution when listening to employees, the biggest concern by far (from managers) is that feedback will not be full and honest if it is attributed.

These days, what we’ve seen is that more and more employees want to be heard and more are therefore happy to put their name to their comments.  In fact, many insist on it and see anonymous programs as too vague and lacking in accountability (this is not just millennials – it’s across the spectrum of employees).

Based on our experience, here is our advice on what needs to be done to ensure that full and honest feedback is received:

  • Ensure employees understand that the purpose of the program is to spark a valuable conversation within the company about the selected topic of shared importance – not metrics
  • The rating scale question asked (keeping in mind we take a simple ‘voice approach’ where we ask one rating scale question and then two open voice positive and negative questions) needs to be pitched at a strategic level, so that the feedback given is not too personal.  For example, it is much safer for an employee to put their name to feedback and to be honest about how well their company is delivering on its strategy than it is to answer a personal question about their personal job satisfaction or how they feel about their line manager
  • It is vital to explain to employees who is going to receive the attributed feedback and what is going to be done about it, as part of the conversation of shared purpose.  Especially that there will some discussion with people about what they have said, so that comments and ideas will be built into the action program.  If they feel safe and if they feel this is worthwhile, they will willingly participate and they will be honest. If the loop is closed (that is, they hear back on the outcomes of the feedback), they will continue to participate.

Why not re-think what you want to achieve from your employee surveys?  Creating a conversation of shared purpose is an engaging way to supersede your disengaging engagement survey.

For more information, see these MirrorWave client success stories:

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